In 1905 the question of supplying electricity to the town of Rushden arose.  The council were approached by the County of Northampton Electric Power and Traction Company for a Provisional Order to supply electricity to the district.  The council were very much against this and really wanted to apply for a provisional order themselves.   They didn’t want a private company running in competition with the Rushden and Higham Ferrers District Gas Company.  Representatives of the company attended a council meeting and explained that they would give the council special terms for street lighting, and would give full details and costs of the work to be carried out.  They would bear the cost of re-instating the roads after the mains were laid and the cost of any necessary supervision.

Wellingborough and Kettering already had electric lighting but Mr. Ballard thought that Wellingborough’s street lighting was very poor, and that Rushden had a much better light from incandescent gas, which played into the representatives’ hands because they were able to point out that Wellingborough street lighting was managed by the council, not by their Company.  The lighting provided in private houses was good, thus proving that consumers were better served by a private company than by the council.

The council were still very much in favour of doing the work themselves, and after much discussion, in January 1906 they refused to give their consent to the Order applied for by the County of Northampton Electric Power and Traction Company.

In July 1911 the council received a letter informing them that Messrs. Thornton and Brook Sampson, of Northampton, and Mr. John Clark of Rushden were to apply for a provisional order under the Electric Lighting Act authorising them to supply electricity for whole or part of the Urban District of Rushden, and in December of that year they were asked to consent to the application.

By January 1912 the council had almost agreed to give their consent but the promotors refused to reduce the period of possible purchase from 42 to 30 years.  After much debate it was decided that, as the council were not in a position to undertake the work themselves, they should consent to the proposal.  It was generally agreed that the people of the town wanted electricity and businesses wanting to come to the town always asked if electricity was available, so if they opposed it they would only be “standing in their own light.”  In May 1912 the Clerk was able to report that the Board of Trade had granted the provisional Order on the terms to which the Urban Council had agreed.

 

One of the people responsible for bringing electricity to Rushden was Mr. John Clark, who lived at “Heatherbreea House,” in Wellingborough Road, Rushden.  In 1913 he was elected on to the Rushden Urban District Council and was also one of the directors of the Rushden and District Electric Supply Co., Lt.

Heatherbreea House

The company was registered in August 1912 and in January 1913 the Rushden Urban Council passed plans for a new Electricity Works to be built in Shirley Road.  The Company commenced a public supply of electricity on 15th October 1913.    The engine room at the works held two diesel powered generators producing DC electricity.
However, on the 20th December, 1912 the Rushden Echo reports a fire in the window of the men’s outfitting department of the Rushden Co-operative Society’s drapery store.  “The cause of the fire is stated, though not officially, to be through the fusing of electric wires which were being fitted for Christmas illuminations.  The extent of the damage is not known at present, but is very considerable, the three plate glass windows being smashed by the heat.”  Was this run from a generator or was there electricity already in the High Street? Interesting to note that Christmas lights were being fitted in December, now they start in October if not sooner!

 

The cable laying didn’t go without incident.  In July 1913 P.C. Reed discovered a man lying unconscious in the road, at the junction of Hayway and Higham Road, after falling off his cycle.  Fortunately, Dr. Greenfield happened to be passing and rendered assistance.  When the man regained consciousness he said he had been confused by all the lights placed round the excavations made by the Electric Lighting Company.  The poor man was taken home on the bus where it was found that he had injuries to his right eye and his left thumb was put out of joint.

The first house sale I have found which mentions electricity is in May 1923 when “The Poplars,” Wellingborough Road, Rushden was for sale with vacant possession.  The property was connected with the main sewer, town water laid on, Company’s gas and electric light, and telephone.

It would seem that it was not until about 1933 that houses were being built with “all the necessary services for modern homes.”  Presumably that meant water, gas and electricity.

 

By 1933 there were still 236 street lamps lit by gas and only 72 by electricity.

Electrical fittings from the Rushden Museum collection.
A street light outside the Belgian House, close to what is now Wetherspoon’s Railway Inn.

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